Loneliness

This is really hard. I’m listening to Seth Godin, the marketing guru give me advice on how to connect with people and develop a free blog that people will actually be interested in, in a time-poor and choice-saturated modern world. Surely with my writing skills, envisioning skills, empathy and imagination I can do this?

But I want to do more than just this. I want to provide a service that helps our relationship with the rest of Nature, that integrates society more closely with Nature and itself, that there are no more lonely people; that the multiplicity of possible connections online actually translate better into meaningful face to face connections, and those all-important oxytocin-releasing hugs. (Anyone got a hug for me? I need one.) Here is a great TED talk on Youtube about the negative feedback loops, biological and neurological, that happen as a result of loneliness: The lethality of loneliness

It seems to me, from what I’ve observed and the reading I’ve done, that the capitalist model of society, as it currently exists in its dominant form, prevents a proper integration of culture that could almost eliminate loneliness.

Three examples (which overlap in various ways):

  • A key unit of contemporary capitalism, the monogamous family unit, does not always bring with it an extended network of familial support. Further, when the unit is encouraged to compete with other units in a capitalist sense, this can often prevent a well-connected social embeddedness in a community, or in wider society -especially when waged work is done away from home. Social embeddedness is key to preventing loneliness, felt both on the inside and outside of families. The relative economic predictability of the monogamous family unit plays a role in its prime position in contemporary capitalist society. See The Extraordinary Political Power of Moving Beyond Monogamy But economic predictability is not mental health. Many monogamous families are very happy, but I hypothesize that this norm creates the polar opposite of many lonely people, the incidence of which would be reduced in a society that wasn’t mono- family unit -centric. A properly integrated culture, one relatively free from loneliness, is surely one where the shared identities of everyone are constantly reinforced in face to face interactions, (not just online ones), including at home. These interactions are on some level ‘cultural events’ in that they propogate or carry forward culture, ideally often involving a degree of human touch as well, and not just between lovers, family and friends. This can still all function if you are someone who ‘likes their own space’ (as I do) -that’s fine.
  • In the UK, the relatively large number of single person households (7.7 million in 2016), I think does not reflect the desires of those people for human connection. See Families and households in the UK: 2016 The modern consumerist mantra is ‘I want whatever I want and I want it now’. We are marketed capitalism-driven stories by mass Media that tell us we shouldn’t settle for anything less than the perfect home, with the perfect life partner, and the perfect job. We ‘happily’ continually dislodge ourselves from neighbourhoods in the hope of finding better ones. I contend that this has a detrimental effect on the coherent sense of culture that I think is integral to making meaningful human connections. Many people say they ‘just like living alone’ and ‘can’t share’ but I contend that this is a faulty attitude (which I often have myself, in my own flat!) borne of a lack of understanding or exploration of the diverse private / communal living boundaries and arrangements which are possible, or alternatively a lack of appropriate communal living situations on offer.
  • Economically-driven loneliness is common in modern society. I suffer from it myself. There are different kinds of economically-driven loneliness; I discuss only one kind here. For people who find it difficult to make money, and for people like me who find it difficult to orientate their lives around making money, the financially affordable options for meeting likeminded people face to face are drastically reduced -especially in rural areas, unless you are lucky enough to be connected to charitable land-based enterprises or fulfilling volunteering opportunities. In modern society the ‘likemindedness’ of people is often dependent on the type of culture they spend money on consuming. Although internet-based culture is largely free, if I am financially poor I am by default uncultured by the dominant capitalist model and moreover there are large gaps in my very understanding of the whole culture I live in. It is largely up to individuals to work out a sense of the whole culture they live in, based on what they consume. So the important work of cultural integration in modern society, you could say, is done by individuals and groups of individuals in a haphazard way, depending on what culture they have consumed, largely dependent on what they’ve spent their money on (whether food or cinema trips or academic textbooks), in turn dependent on the capitalist forces of marketing. The financially poor are often emotionally isolated from this whole process, and end up lonely. This blog is my own haphazard project of integration, but by eventually including as many sources (especially integrative sources) and people as possible, I hope that over time it may bear useful fruit. Otherwise, I may just be another force for disintegration, especially if I charge people for what should be free, once the business wing of this blog is developed. I do think capitalism can be reformed or gradually usurped by something more evolved. A re-orientation of society to Nature / land -based socialising and culture must be key.

Possible solutions to these examples of loneliness, briefly (to be expanded on in future posts):

  • More normalisation and society-wide support -including legal and financial -for extended family living units (as used to be the case in this country, for instance), communal living units and polyamorous (ethically non-monogamous) living units. In normalised polyamory living units, the travelling of some individuals between units would be common, in a culturally supported way. This type of living unit is potentially inclusive of individual-types who are failed by the strict monogamous standard.
  • More support in Government Planning and in architectural practices, for more of a diversity of housing designs and living arrangements for single people, including more allowance of self-builds, and different options for managing private / communal boundaries and spaces. On a deeper level, the reduction in power of consumer-driven culture.
  • More opportunities for socialisation and the consumption of culture for the financially poor, especially in rural areas. Alternative localised economies which are not aggressively competition based. On a deeper level, the evolution of capitalism into something which has the whole of Nature, alongside human social justice, at its core.

The internet may be the most powerful tool that we’ve ever had, ironically, to reconnect with Nature and with each other face to face. How can I use the internet to translate the multiplicity of possible online connections into actual face to face connections (and hugging!) ? How can we use diverse connections online to reshape the actual, physical society we live in, in a way that all but eradicates loneliness?

Perhaps this blog -Epic Tomorrows- could be a force for good on this mission. Will you help me? Feel free to comment below. Additionally, see my Heroine Quest -my ultimate remedy for human loneliness.

 

 

9 thoughts on “Loneliness

  1. Most definitely have a hug for you… that distance created by non-local communities forbids it for now, though! Soon, I hope 🙂 Come spring.
    I very much empathise with your position on lack of channels for shared insight into culture and coherent communal experience. Rifts are rife and yet we lack the language (verbal and non-verbal), often, to translate and relay profound eco-spiritual experiences to those who do not share the same opportunities.
    As much as I adore academic writing, the most simple means of conveyance are the most universal, and perhaps more skilled to achieve for the educationally groomed (and confused)!
    And land ownership keeps coming up as the primary tool for systematic oppression. Without bases to craft life, growing physical and social-emotional forms of lasting value, we are doomed to migrate our inner and outer resources.
    Taking full advantage of government and NGO infrastructure to grant funds, spaces, and legal formats/protections, seems to be proving fruitful for many, a complement to the fully (as fully as can be) independent life-changers.
    This is me as an ‘armchair activist’ and humble street person-to-person ‘activist’, witnessing some of the movers and shakers of today, dreaming of the possible near future!

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  2. Hi Francesca, thanks for your thoughtful response. It is interesting that you demonstrate the problematic language of which you speak, by yourself using ‘eco-spiritual’ in that same sentence! For me a bit of a vague word, although also appropriate that you used it. Limits of expression in modern culture? Or, maybe you could explain further what this word means to you; give me a definition?
    I am not interested in universal ‘conveyance’ as you put it, with this blog. In terms of a blog, to try to reach everyone is to reach no-one. In business terms (and I will argue that small businesses / ecopreneurship can have a massive impact; taking global culture in the right direction -yes of course land-based) I have researched and understood for myself that I must inspire a Tribe of people with very specific interests to connect with each other more (this is useful in it’s own right and is not driven by me wanting to make money). Much later, when I have inspired and connected and consolidated this Tribe, THEN is the time to carefully reach more people, expanding outwards from the initial Tribe. Eventually a ‘mass market’ could be influenced like this, helping massive change, but it has to start with a strong, small Tribe, which is what I’m working on over the next couple of years, by writing this blog.
    My chosen ‘niche’ is the overlap between sustainable culture / mental health / entrepreneurship which is still possibly too large and may need narrowing down further.
    On the other hand, I will try to be more accessable in my language with at least some posts, or even my chosen audience won’t have a clue what I’m going on about! It’s difficult when writing about very complex issues!
    What you say about land ownership is true, but my chosen audience is not necessarily interested in access to land at this point (although some of them definitely will be interested). I am in the midst of society with this blog, and no longer see the fruitfulness of associating purely with ‘the converted’ as I have in the past. So gently gently softly softly I will be hoping to engage folk from all walks of life, as long as there is an aspiration to sustainability and an interest in human well-being and how creative business people can further both of these simultaneously. Political activism will still be key (don’t you worry!) but not in such obvious ways as I’ve advocated in the past. Politically active business is a really exciting area for me.
    Just to be clear, I call Ecopanu a ‘business’ because, although the blog will always be free, I intend to develop extra information based product to generate income. This will never be at the expense of people who can’t afford it.
    Yes yes definitely to work with Government and NGO infrastructure where they are helpful.
    Thanks Fran. 🙂
    (Looking forward to that hug)

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  3. Interesting post – and response you received. Economically poor – unfortunately there are more and more people who fall into that category every day. The gap between the “haves and the “have nots” is so wide that we don’t communicate. Our needs are so different. I have never had more money than I needed, but have had more money than I have now – after hard medical issues. People who chose to be alone through their lives wanting no children or having no siblings have no one to help support them, even emotionally. I prefer to be alone – but not live alone, if that makes sense. I don’t crave mindless socializing but I love talking to people who have something interesting to say. I’m not attached to my husband’s hip and my life doesn’t revolve around his needs. I do the things that fulfill my life and he does the same. I’m 63 and not done with my life, but he is done with his. The couch is now permanently attached to his back. But he is intelligent and our conversations are stimulating. I can’t make him change, so I don’t try.

    About land ownership. I have never desired to own a house. It is too big of an anchor for me. When it is time to move on to another “sharp turn to the left” I want to do it without trying to get rid of a residence. Unfortunately, the rest of the people in my primary family feel that is a negative since they own where they live and have lived in it for decades. I find that boring because I like the freedom to stop what I’m doing and do something else. They live in fear of the unknown.

    I am very much a political activist and don’t rely on soundbites to tell me what to think. Much of my writing is in this area, especially how it relates to our prison system and criminal justice.

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    1. Hello SonniQ, much of what you write resonates with me. Interested to learn more of your perspectives on prison and criminal justice systems. Will look at your writing in more depth.

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      1. One I did on a similar theme was “What do Adults do for Fun?”https://itsnotjustyou.ca/2017/09/19/what-do-adults-do-for-fun/This was also very popular. I also did a few about alternative perspectives on work and education.

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